i’m in nyc. and it goes without saying that nyc is chock full of amazing buildings. but here’s the issue: most of them have been photographed and documented a few trillion times.
so, i mean, i could go take a picture of the seagram’s building or the chrysler building, but i figure i’d rather search out something a little bit weirder. and today’s building is one of my favorite odd-ball buildings in nyc. it’s tribeca’s ‘synagogue for the arts’, as designed by William Breger (who was a student of Walter Gropius, the bauhaus bigwig).
decades ago i remember walking by it with a friend of mine and we had a pretty heated pro-con debate regarding the relative merits of this buildings. i was pro. he was con.
my pros were: it’s bizarre, it has no windows on the facade, it’s sculptural, it stands in stark relief to every other building in nyc (except the guggenheim) as it’s curvy and weird when almost all other nyc buildings are exclusively composed of right angles, it looks like an odd fluid wave, it kind of looks like a candle flame or a scroll, and etc.
his con was that he thought it was weird an ugly.
to this day he thinks it’s weird and ugly, and i think it’s one of the best buildings in nyc, especially as it hearkens back to a time in nyc when real estate was cheap and architects could be truly experimental (kind of like parts of l.a today). as new york increasingly becomes a very cohesive theme park for the very wealthy i like to visit buildings like this, as a reminder that nyc still has some awesome weirdness hiding out on it’s side streets.
ok, i don’t know what this is. nor, to be clear, do i have any interest in knowing what it is. or what purpose it serves.
from my perspective it’s a giant plastic people mover tube that goes from nowhere to nowhere. maybe it has a real world utility.
i don’t want to know what that real world utility might be. but isn’t it amazing?
this giant long plastic centipede.
what if it’s a time travel portal?
or is that too obvious?
maybe it connects wormholes?
i’m working under the assumption that yes, that’s what it’s designed and built for. i’m including it in my architecture blog because it’s architecture. someone designed it and someone built it and it holds people (as far as i can tell. well, it held me for a minute while i was inside taking pictures).
it’s nice that it’s clear, so that when people go from wormhole to wormhole they can look outside. that’s very considerate on the part of the architect and engineer.
i ran into someone at sage in echo park the other night and they asked me, ‘i know you have your studio in your lautner house, but what does it look like?’ so… here’s my studio.
i know, it’s small and underwhelming (just like some musician architectural bloggers i know). but i’m including it because:
- it’s where i work
- it was challenging building a small personal recording studio in a lautner bedroom. the challenge was to respect and not compromise or damage lautner’s paneling and original millwork. (also, to be honest, some of the wood in the lautner house was in REALLY bad shape, so we had to go out and try to replace the damaged wood with newly stained wood that matched lautner’s original work. it was challenging.).
- i’m putting out a new record in the autumn and i thought i’d put up some pictures of where i work.
(and, a caveat: in taking/posting these pictures i’ve learned: it’s hard to take beautiful and artistic photos of a small bedroom studio… so, mea culpa).
ok, basically: i’m a bedroom musician. my first studio back when i was 18 years old and had a tascam 4 track was in my bedroom (eventually a basement, but it started in my bedroom). then i moved to an abandoned factory and my studio WAS my bedroom. then i moved to a slightly less abandoned factory and once again my studio was my bedroom. then i renovated a small loft in manhattan and put my studio in the bedroom and decided to sleep in a closet.
yes, glamorous and true. the bedroom in my loft in nyc is soundproofed and has good air conditioning, so that’s where i put my studio. and the closet in my loft in nyc is kind of cozy, so that’s where i sleep. and now i have my studio in a bedroom in los angeles. granted it’s a bedroom in a very interesting john lautner guest house, but it’s still a little bedroom.
many of my friends have HUGE GIGANTIC AMAZING STUDIOS. but i’m just one little guy, so why would i need A HUGE GIGANTIC AMAZING STUDIO? plus i like working in small spaces (maybe i was a monk in a past life. or, given my veganism and sobriety, maybe i’m a monk in my current life. or maybe i’m just little and dull).
so, architecture. a beautiful but crumbly john lautner bedroom that we turned into a small one person recording studio (oh, p.s-i apologize for not tidying up for the pictures, but this is architectural blogging verite). trying to make it efficient and practical and sonically sound (no pun intended) while respecting all of lautner’s original work and detailing was, as i mentioned, the interesting and challenging part of the renovation. and now that it’s renovated and nice and small and functional it’s where i work on music and where i made/recorded/wrote all of the music for ‘innocents’, my next record.
oh: much less glamorously… i keep my drums in the basement. maybe someday i’ll take pictures of my drums in the basement but i can almost guarantee that no one wants/needs to see a picture of a basement filled with drums and microphones.
and oh, i’m off to tahoe and nyc and canada for a few weeks, so my architectural updates won’t involve l.a for a little while.
p.s any fans of musical gear will notice that 99% of my musical equipment is kind of old and broken down. for some reason i really love old and broken down musical equipment (thank you ebay). especially as i try to make music that has a quality of vulnerability it just makes sense to use broken down equipment that also has a quality of vulnerability. or so i believe. plus old equipment smells nice.
p.s.s i also have really good alarm systems at my house, so just because i’m going away doesn’t mean anyone will be able to break into my house… or, rather, you could break in, but THE LAW would be here real quick. so, no ‘bling ring’ (or ‘analogue drum machine ring’) will be happening here, i’m guessing.
ok, i don’t want to name this property so as to protect it’s anonymity. but suffice it to say it’s just about the coolest most fascinating home in all of l.a. and, well, possibly the world.
i mean, in addition to it being an amazing house it also contains a gigantic theater from 1930 in the backyard. and a stream. there’s a stream in hollywood? yes, apparently there’s a stream in hollywood. who knew? i didn’t, clearly.
i love this place. and it’s magic theater and stream and giant plants. i hope the pictures somehow indicate just how amazing this home/place/wormhole/brigadoon/property is. and yes, there’s a skeleton hanging in the trees. and yes, there’s a bunny in a skull mask and fez.
p.s-find the wizard.
p.p.s-yes, this is a blog about architecture. well, broadly speaking.
hi from mexico.
and, i’m ashamed to admit, today’s architecture update was taken super quickly from my hotel room, as my schedule in mexico city is really busy and i unfortunately don’t have time to go out and take pictures of the great buildings in mexico city. mea culpa, i’m sorry.
but i’m standing here in my hotel room looking at the back of the this building and from here it looks pretty amazing. this big, beautiful art deco fortress.
i’m assuming ‘imss’ has something to do with social security? if so, then i’m positing that this is probably the most beautiful art deco social security fortress on the planet. i could be wrong. i’m often wrong. but i stand by my posit.
also i took this picture in the rain, as it’s raining. or was. now it stopped. so the streaks in the pictures are not some fancy photoshop rain plug-in effect. they’re just rain. old timey rain.
i wish i had time to go and take a picture of the front of this amazing art deco fortress, but as i mentioned before: busy, busy, busy. i like busy, it saves me from having to spend time with my thoughts of mortality and the human condition. art deco fortresses are way more entertaining than thoughts of mortality and the human condition.
a part of me wishes that this building were some big, top-secret center for alien communication. like the ‘international mexican space studies’ building. but i’m sure that social security is nice, too.
maybe not as nice as aliens, but few things are.
ok, back to work.
ok, i confess that i generally tend to take pictures of: old houses and weird houses and houses that are kind of falling down and houses that are succumbing to entropy.
today’s house is neither old nor weird nor falling down nor succumbing to entropy. i see it almost every day, as it’s in my neighborhood, and even though i see it every day it invariably strikes me in that it’s a fairly rare example of good, new, tasteful, and relatively site sensitive architecture.
it was designed by francois perrin, who is a french architect living and working in l.a.
personally, and subjectively, i love how it’s restrained and sculptural, and how it subtly references a lot of iconic l.a mid-century case study houses.
it’s also a really deft example of employing materials that might not always be thought of as cohabitating benignly (like cement and wood) in a very challenging location (a hill-side with an 80 degree slope). and no, i’m not being paid to write advertorial for this house, i just think it’s really tasteful and great, and stands in stark contrast to the thousands of beige crap-shacks being erected by rapacious developers.
thanks, and have a nice weekend.
i love this little modern moderne art deco tiny ocean liner with gun slots building.
it does look like a 1930’s version of an albert speer spaceship ocean liner, ready to fly to the moon and battle moon people (thus: the things on the roof that look like gun slots). and am i using the vaguely right nomenclature? is this a moderne building? i always feel kind of uncomfortable writing ‘moderne’, as it sounds made up and wrong. but maybe it’s valid architectural nomenclature?
oh, i also just realized that this might actually be a well known building as designed by a well known architect. and, once again, i’m confronted with my gaping ignorance as regards well known buildings as designed by well known architects.
well, regardless of it’s history or nomenclature or patrimony it’s a beautiful little jewel box of a tiny ocean liner building.
ok, a rarely seen example of a rare architectural genre that might only exist here in glamorous dystopian l.a… mid century gothic.
see, when we think of scary gothic houses we tend to think of scary old victorian houses. crumbly and falling down with overgrown lawns and tattered curtains and scary old people potentially living inside and only oming out with rotten old shovels to bury dead cats in the backyard. whereas modern houses tend to be clean and pristine and filled with light and in no way scary or creepy.
but here we have: a scary and crumbly and falling down mid century modern house.
and, to be clear, what was probably once a really beautiful mid century modern house, with some great lines and amazing little details (like a tree growing through the roof by the entranceway). but now entropy has gripped this beautiful little mid century in it’s maw and is turning it into a scary gothic house that the kids avoid when they go out collecting unicef pennies at halloween.
and yes, it looks like it’s about to be renovated. and the entropy will be scraped off and once again there will be a shiny fancy beautiful million dollar mid century perched on a hill overlooking a canyon. or perhaps this is a superfancy art project that is too sophisticated for mere mortals, like me, to understand.
'by perfectly recreating the effects of entropic degression we turn this bourgeoisie edifice into a landmark of de-gentrified situationist impermanence.'
sort of thing.
well, whether it’s natural entropy or fancy set dressed entropy it’s still a cool mid century gothic house with tattered curtains and raccoon ghosts floating from mid century room to room.
now i’m going to put on my low-rent grad student hat for a second. or a minute. or for however long it takes me to write about semiotics and from a low-rent grad student perspective. (oh, to be clear: ‘low rent’ meaning the quality of my writing, not the value of this real estate. i’m guessing this real estate is fairly pricey, as it’s in west hollywood).
when i was at uconn and suny purchase i really, really wanted to go brown and study semiotics. why?
- i love semiotics (before they stopped calling it semiotics…sniff).
- brown was fancy but progressive.
- my girlfriend at the time went to brown and lived on thayer st.
- i couldn’t afford brown.
- i probably wasn’t smart enough to go to brown.
- they stopped offering semiotics as a major.
so i was left as a lowly philosophy major at one of two state schools (both of which were great, go team(s)).
now i’ll be pedantic for a second, ok?
you might ask (or not), ‘what is/are semiotics?’ well, and in a very simple and grossly reductionist way, semiotics is/are the study of signs and symbols and the way in which we process them and give them meaning and respond to them.
most of what we experience is fairly neutral. a flag is really just some dyed fabric stitched together. but it can compel people to fits of rage or joy or loyalty or despair. but it’s just fabric. semiotics is, broadly speaking and applied to just about everything that triggers a reaction in us, the study of why people have emotional and intellectual reactions and responses to something like a flag, which is really just some colorful fabric.
but i don’t want to go on and on about semiotics (although if you corner me at a party i will talk to you for days about semiotics and they way in which all of our lives are spent (tyrannized, even) having ostensibly hard-wired reactions to things that are not in any way comprised of any inherent meaning).
but: this blog update.
here’s a house. or an almost house. which led me to ask some questions:
- is it being built or deconstructed?
- what utility does it have in it’s extant form?
- when we look at it are we seeing it for what it is or what it represents in terms of potential?
- how do we overlook what it actually is (a bunch of wood, cobbled together) and only see what it represents (a potentially finished house)?
- what amazing cognition is involved in extrapolating from a bunch of wood into a finished house?
- does it have aesthetic merit in it’s extant form, and if so what?
- see ‘7’.
it’s an interesting challenge, i think, to see this construction for what it is, divorced of any potential infused future utility.
it’s wood. kind of sculptural. defining a space, but without creating a space in a traditional, architectural way. it has no roof, it would be pretty crummy at keeping out bugs and wind. it wouldn’t be great at giving anyone a place to shower or sleep. but it’s still remarkable in and of itself. and can we judge a structure for what it is and not for what it represents and what it triggers in us?
someone might look at this and see a waste of resources. someone might look at it and see egregious socioeconomic inequality.
someone might look at it and see a place to eventually make popcorn and watch ‘30 rock’. or someone might look at it and see some odd post-modern sculptural land-art commentary on our predatory patriarchal rigid society. or none of the above.
ultimately, though, it’s wood. and some concrete. and some nails. but that’s not what i see, or, i assume, what any of us see.
and it’s fascinating that we see what isn’t so much more clearly and easily than what actually is. we see what’s represented far more than what’s actually in front of us.
and yes, that’s semiotics, at least from my perspective. and it can be applied to almost all of our conditioned emotional reactions. so says the college dropout blogger musician who really has no qualifications to be writing about architecture and/or semiotics. except that i like both.
i guess i have a presumptuous request/challenge: try to look at things (like this structure) for what they actually are. and when we
extrapolate and see things for what they represent (flags, republicans, saxophones, houses, globes, etc) it’s potentially interesting
to just become aware of the fact that we’re having a reaction to our own perception, not necessarily to the thing we’re observing or interacting with.
i just got back from detroit, where i was playing at the movement festival (which was as festivals go, i say with some objectivity, amazing).
i’ve been going to detroit since the late 80’s (as it is the birthplace of modern electronic music), and i’ve always loved it.
culturally and musically and artistically it’s a fascinating place, but it’s also fascinating in that it has more remarkable abandoned buildings than any other city in the western world (this might sound like hyperbole, but i’m guessing it’s actually true).
it’s worth stating that there are big parts of detroit that are not filled with abandoned buildings. and those are nice, too… but the parts of downtown detroit that are filled with beautiful old abandoned buildings are aesthetically amazing (as evidenced by the fact that lots and lots of people have taken pictures of them).
on saturday i had the afternoon off, so my friend shannon (who lives in a former abandoned building) took me on a bike ride around detroit to look at her favorite abandoned buildings (what she refers to as ‘ruin porn’).
here are some of my favorites.
and i hope that these buildings at some point get the love and care that they deserve. but in the meantime: ruin porn.